Active Aging and Medication Management for Older Americans

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Dr. James D. Huysman

Aging Well / / May 26, 2015

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May is Older Americans Month and right now the topics of active aging and managing medications has never been more important, particularly for those 55 and older.
As we age, many of us begin to feel the aches and pains that allegedly come with the territory. Sometimes these physical ailments manifest from old injuries, broken bones and the like, that occurred in our youth, but many times they are the result of old ideas about  “the aging process”.  Aging bodies change; they aren’t able to move as quickly or bounce back as easily as they used to.
There’s a lyric in one of my favorite classic rock songs that says “When the levee breaks, mama you’ve got to move”.  Needing to move is important whether the levee breaks or not!!  As a caregiver, helping your loved one maintaining  some level of activity, meaning movement or exercise, suited to their  goals and specific limitations exponentially helps to up their overall wellness quotient.   Many senior centers and offer classes and there are many treatment options offered by private practitioners that may be covered by insurance to assist older adults to stay flexible and limber.  As the saying goes, if you don’t use it, you’re going to lose it!
No one likes to be in pain. That’s a given. There are cases where one may be able to work through the pain with physical therapy and such but at times medication for pain is necessary in conjunction with other treatment. 
As a caregiver for an older adult, it’s important to understand what pain medication your loved one is taking, what its side effects are and how it’s likely to interact with other medications your loved one may be taking on a regular basis.  While managing medications is a normal part of caregiving, monitoring pain medication is more important than ever because of the “accidental addict” phenomenon. This occurs when someone develops a tolerance for a drug over time causing them to need a higher dosage than what was initially prescribed.  Also, those loved ones with a history of substance abuse, including alcohol, can be in danger of relapsing, due to the nature of the popular kind of pain medications being readily prescribed today.
I am not an alarmist, but I am a realist and I need you to understand that the older American population is the largest group of addicts and alcoholics needing treatment today. 
While the major focus of the article until now has been about a loved one and the need to monitor the medication for their care, the fact is that caregivers themselves represent a healthy percentage of this group. 
Some caregivers become entrapped by substance addiction trying to escape the stress of being a caregiver; others relapse from their own sobriety or abstinence.   Some will indulge in process addictions like gambling or shopping, even exercise, while others are addicted to people, places and things.  This is called co-dependency and it’s pitfalls in the relationship between caregiver and caree can be devasting for both.
When all is said and done, those who give care need to take care.  Taking your oxygen first means doing whatever you need to do to nurture your own health and happiness.




About The Author
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James D “Dr. Jamie” Huysman, PsyD, LCSW is well-known for his work fiercely advocating on behalf of family and professional caregivers. From running a national caregiver support foundation, contributing to the AARP Foundation/NASW’s collective “New Guidelines for Caregivers of Older Adults” and co-authoring “Take Your Oxygen First”, to his expert videos on Caregiver Connections for UHC TV, he is a champion of behavioral health and a patient-centered medical culture that is prepared to meet the needs of those they serve.  A popular speaker, he works as VP of Provider Relations and Government Affairs for WellMed Medical Management.

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